UCLA returned to postseason action for the first time in two seasons, and won for the first time in five. Even if it was just the NIT, a dynasty has to start over somewhere.
That was at Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins offered a grisly welcome to the Grizzlies of Montana, bombing them, 78-47, Thursday night. The Bruins have been told they'll play at home again, on Tuesday, against a still-unnamed opponent.
This was the first Los Angeles exposure for the National Invitation Tournament, and it pulled up a little short of boffo. The crowd was 4,820, second smallest ever to watch a game at Pauley. Montana Coach Mike Montgomery had said that the Grizzlies couldn't stay home because Montana fans wouldn't stand for an $11 ticket. It wasn't a real hot attraction here, either.
This was the first exposure for the Bruins, who had grown accustomed to making the NCAA and who had turned down their first NIT bid last season. On the whole, they seemed to feel it was better than watching USC on TV.
"The NCAA," UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said, "the way things turned out, I don't think we were treated unjustly. We were in a three-way tie for third place in our conference, but if you add everything up, we were the fifth-place team . . .
"And some of those teams (USC, Oregon State, Washington, which lost first-round NCAA games) are through tonight, from what I hear."
The Grizzlies showed up with a large, slow 22-7 team and all their starters wearing what were either avant-garde punk haircuts, or vintage '50s Middle American crewcuts.
"For team unity," the Montana publicist said before the game. "They did it before our conference playoff game at Boise State."
How had it worked?
"We got beat bad," he said.
They got beat badly again. The Bruins sank their defense back into the lane and buried the leading (only?) Grizzly threat, 6-9, 228-pound Larry Krystkowiak. The other big Grizzly, 6-10, 238-pound Larry McBride, was slowed by an ankle sprain. His coach kept noting that McBride had already been slow enough.
Also, Montana was committed to playing zone, the defense that the Bruins have repeatedly blown away in Pauley.
Thus it should not come as a surprise that UCLA romped. They shut off the Montana inside game and turned the Grizzlies over with their press. By halftime, they led, 34-21, and had eight field goals from 18 feet or longer. The Grizzlies had missed 18 of their 28 shots and had turned the ball over 10 times.
In the second half, Downtown Reggie Miller dropped one in from his coach's lap.
How far was that, someone asked later.
"Outer limits," Brad Wright said.
"Twentyi-five, 27 feet," Miller said.
"I've played with some great shooters," Hazzard said. "Jerry West was a great, great shooter, but he didn't have Reggie's range. Sweet Lou Hudson was a great shooter with great range, but I don't think he had Reggie's range."
The Bruins scored 13 of the first 17 points in the second half, and it was a rout. Afterward, Montgomery apologized to the press for not having been able to make it a game.
"Our kids tried to nonchalant the fact that it was Pauley Pavilion," he said. "But, hey, we're in Pauley Pavilion. I'm from Long Beach and I'm excited.
"I hoped we could come out and get after it. The way it turned out, UCLA was up by 30 with half a minute left and they're going to the floor, and we're watching them."
The guess is that UCLA will play Fresno State. New Mexico Coach Gary Colson scouted Thursday's game at Pauley but said he expects to play the Lamar-Houston winner . . . Reggie Miller led the Bruins with 21 points, making six of his nine field-goal attempts, and adding six assists. Larry Krystkowiak was held to 6 for 15 (14 points) by Brad Wright and friends . . . Colson: "I'll tell you what the Bruins would draw in Albuquerque, eighteen-one. And they'd be fighting to get in."